How I burned the guys who wanted me to burn my KISS records
|Art by Chris Strouth|
Coming of age in the '80s had a lot of complexities. Parachute pants made us look ridiculous, puberty hit right as Time magazine was running weekly stories on AIDS, and an almost manic hysteria launched regarding backwards masking with secret pro-Satan sloganeering. The record burnings for Jesus rivaled the amount of disco records smashed at anti-disco parties. Given that this is ostensibly a column about music, it only makes sense to talk about guys who burned records.
My friend Jon Hunt recently wrote a piece titled We Will Rock You: Jesus Made Me Smash My KISS Records. It details him growing up in a devout born-again Christian household and having to destroy these evil albums per the advice of the Twin Cities anti-rock crusaders the Peters Brothers (pictured above). In his story, he recounts some folks who raised a ruckus at his first encounter with the Peters. Spoiler alert: The primary raiser of said ruckus was me.
I loved Buddy Holly too much to become a goth Justin Bieber
Jim, Dan and Steve Peters were brothers and born-again Christian evangelical ministers who wrote books, made TV specials, went on PM Magazine and Nightline, and hosted big events about the satanic perversions of rock 'n' roll. They seemed to want to make record destruction some sort of national pastime.
In their video "The Truth about Rock," they did a slideshow and took some wild swings at rock music:
"Mick Jagger is an avowed homosexual!"
"Janis Joplin was an admitted bisexual and drug addict; if she hadn't died of drugs, venereal disease would have eaten her up!"
"The cover of an Alan Parsons Project album has girls with syphilis sores on their faces cloaked by veils!"
"John Denver says that with the help of his guru, he will become God!"
"KISS stands for Kids in Service to Satan. Look into the eyes of Gene Simmons. The bible tells us that the eyes are the windows of the soul. Nobody's home there!"
"The Eagles' 'Hotel California' is about the Church of Satan. I mean, I don't know any other hotel where they'll let you check out but you can't leave!"
OK, they were kinda right about Janis Joplin, and surprisingly right about John Denver. But the rest was nonsense. Like Satan would ever take a meeting with Don Henley.
I was a new convert to rock 'n' roll, but I took to it like a monk looking at the Dead Sea Scrolls: There was a truth there and I was going to know it. I felt it was my sovereign duty to protect it after reading some of the Peters Brothers booklets and seeing this tape. Sure, there were satanic and perverted bits of rock 'n' roll. And let's face it, that was sort of the point. What bugged me were the lies and half-truths. The things they never got called on.
For some reason, what really stuck in my craw was their bit on Martin Briley, an artist best know for his one hit and the beret he wears in it. "The Salt in My Tears" was a record that I liked.
I am sure that the Peters Brothers genuinely believed that they were a force for good, that they were saving the youth of America by making them stand in front of a fire of burning plastic In Jesus' name.
Personally, I don't think Jesus was all that into carnage and destruction. The fact that the Peters Brothers were making money and getting all kinds of famous probably didn't hurt. The Peters Brothers were sort of the boy band of the new Christian right. They were showmen, as evidenced by this quote from Jim Peters in a 1981 article from Rolling Stone: "One guy from a local TV station told us we really knew how to stage a media event. I didn't know what he was talking about -- you don't learn that stuff in Bible College." He explained: "Slow news time on the weekends, good visuals at burnings, the New Right. It's just the Lord's work to me."
My first face-to-face encounter with the Peters Brothers took place at Faith Academy, a fundamentalist Christian school that was across the street from Grace, and had been previously my grade school. There in the gym where I learned to square dance -- yeah, we had to learn how to square dance -- was the "Truth About Rock." And there I was with a few of my friends, me wearing a suit six times larger than myself, a la David Byrne in Stop Making Sense, and looking just as ridiculous in it.